22 Filipinas rescued from syndicate
by Elton Gomes. Posted on June 21, 2012, Thursday
KOTA KINABALU: A month of intensive surveillance finally paid off when the Immigration Department rescued 22 women from the Philippines who were allegedly forced into prostitution by a human trafficking syndicate in Penampang on Tuesday.
The women, aged between 20 and 35, were believed to be held against their will by the syndicate at two semi-detached houses in Penampang, while a “hair salon” was used as the meeting place for them and their potential customers.
State Immigration director Haji Mohammad Mentek said a team of 10 personnel, who were acting on a tip-off from the public, raided the two houses between 1.30pm and 2.30pm on Tuesday, June 19.
He said initial investigation revealed that the victims, who do not have valid travel documents, were lured to Sabah with promise of jobs in restaurants and entertainment outlets.
“We believe they were smuggled into the state capital by sea through Lahad Datu and Sandakan,” he said.
“Once in the hands of the syndicate, the women were threatened, beaten and forced into prostitution,” Mohammad told a press conference at the Immigration Department office here yesterday.
He said a 38-year-old Filipino who worked as a driver of a Proton Saga car used to transport the women from the salon in Penampang to hotels was also detained during the raid.
The immigration personnel also confiscated the car, he said, adding that investigation showed some of the women had been in the country for the past five months.
He said the case would be investigated under the Anti Trafficking Act and Anti-Trafficking in Person Act 2007 (amendment 2010).
According to Mohammad, this is the second human trafficking case in the state, with the first involving nine foreigners in Tawau.
Asked whether any local people were involved in the syndicate, Mohammad said the department had so far identified three male suspects.